A lot of people think that if a massage doesn't hurt, it's not working.
I don't agree with this assessment. In many situations a big part of what is causing you pain is the agitation of your muscles. Something happened (or is happening to them) that communicated danger or risk, and now they are inflamed and hyper-tense. My biggest priority in this situation is to ease the situation causing the muscles agitation, and to find a way to communicate safety to them.
I have found that a gently firm, non-aggravating touch can be very powerful in accomplishing this, and many, many of my clients have been surprised to find their pain reducing significantly or disappearing entirely. Gentle, compassionate touch almost always wins.
If someone massages an aggravated muscle really hard, hurting it more, it is possible to wrestle that muscle into submission, breaking up the scar tissue and adhesions, and even triggering a mechanical release of tension in that muscle. But all too often the pain can come back in a few hours, or move to another part of the body, now aggravated by the stress of the painful massage.
Ultimately I want your whole system, body and mind, to feel safe and at ease. I don't want to cause suffering to any part of you- I want to create a space of safety, comfort, and steady progress.
The short answer is that Somatic Experiencing is a conversational technique that helps you teach your body new ways to deal with stress.
Is Somatic Experiencing psychotherapy?
Somatic Experiencing is not psychotherapy! It's an approach to helping people's bodies learn to process and recover from stress and trauma more effectively. While many psychotherapists are trained in SE, many massage therapists use it as well.
If I schedule a Somatic Experiencing session, will you also use massage?
It depends on your goals for the session. After we have a conversation about what you're hoping we'll accomplish, we can decide together if we want to mix the SE work with hands-on bodywork, or if it will be more effective to do SE without the hands-on element. If you are looking to train your system to calm and manage its own stress, I tend to recommend doing a session without massage. However, if you're in a high state of stress, or are deeply needing rest, nourishment, and grounding, massage can be a powerful addition.
Ultimately, it's your choice.
Do you offer Couple's Massage?
I sometimes do work with couples. Since I only have one pair of hands, we usually arrange two back-to-back sessions: The first person to receive their session gets to sit in quiet while their partner receives a session, or they can go on a contemplative walk while they bask in the massage glow.
I don't really need any fancy techniques, I don't want to talk, I just want a relaxing, Swedish massage. Do you do that?
Many people find my work to be deeply relaxing and revitalizing, especially if they let me know that that is their goal beforehand. I've heard reports that a session with me can feel like hitting a 'reset' switch, and my clients often walk out looking rested, present, and happy.
However, there are two things you should know: First, one of my key values is communication and agency. It's important to me to know that you and I can communicate openly about your experience. In the beginning of the massage I will check in with you from time to time to check in about pressure and other qualities of touch, and to make sure that you'll let me know if something doesn't feel good. I'll minimize chit-chat if you request that, but I will check in with you about your experience.
I also am experienced in many modalities of massage, and all of these techniques have integrated pretty seamlessly over 14 years. Rather than choosing a specific technique to use for the sake of that technique, I use all of my tools and trainings to move you towards whatever goals you set at the beginning of our session.
If you're specifically looking for a wordless Swedish massage and nothing else, I would be delighted if you reach out ahead of time, and I can connect you to a colleague who specializes in that work.
(An exception to this statement is Craniosacral Therapy. While I do blend Craniosacral Therapy with nearly all of my massages, I also find that receiving a 'pure' Craniosacral session can be a powerful healing experience for many people.)
How often should I come in for a session?
It depends on your hopes for our work together. For both bodywork and Somatic Experiencing work, I believe that if you have a specific goal you're working towards, weekly sessions will get you there the fastest. For example, if you're using bodywork to teach your shoulder how to not hurt anymore, or if you're using Somatic Experiencing to teach your body how to let go of a lingering, post-car accident anxiety, doing a series of regular sessions can support speedier progress.
That being said, I've had clients who come in every two, three, or even four weeks, and they still make great progress over time.
I won't tell you that you 'have to' come in regularly- rather I'll ask you to notice how you feel after our sessions, and check in with yourself about how frequently you'd offer that to yourself.
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